Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sam and Dave Dig A Hole

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

Sam and Dave are on a mission to find "something spectacular", so they start digging a hole. This book will leave children squealing with excitement and frustration as Sam and Dave come so close to finding something spectacular, but then change tactics in their search.

Mac Barnett's simple, minimalist conversation between Sam and Dave combines beautifully with Jon Klassen's delightful illustrations to truly engage the reader and make them feel like a privileged observer througout the story.  I love the open-ended conclusion to this book which challenges the reader and leaves them to think about what happened.... probably resulting in them flipping back to the start and reading it through again, studying the illustrations even more carefully the second time. It would be fun to hear all the different explanations the kid come up with!

This book could be read in conjunction with a mathematics unit on directions. Students could blindfold each other and provide directional instructions to help a partner navigate their way to "something spectacular".

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Book With No Pictures

The Book with No Pictures

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak would have to be the most popular book in my house for 2014, especially with my son who has just finished Year 2. The book says that the reader has to read every word on the page...even if it's a ridiculous rhyme about eating ants for breakfast or saying a silly nonsensical word like BLUURF. This book is just so much fun to share, it is guaranteed to make kids roll around the floor with laughter. Absolutely brilliant for developing expression and building confidence to read out loud.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Kensington Reptilarium


I have to admit that I was drawn to this book by the cover artwork which depicts four cute kids and a rather quirkyly dressed man entwined with reptiles. Even the spine is beautifully embossed with a snakeskin design.

Set in December 1945, the Kensington Reptilarium tells the tale of four kids from the Australian outback. With their mother passed away and their father missing in action, they are moved to London, which has been devastated by war. Uncle Basti is their new guardian and he resides in the Kensington Reptilarium - a fantastical building filled with mysterious secret rooms and reptiles of all descriptions. Unfortunately for the kids, their uncle is a social recluse who doesn't like children and the local police are trying to shut the Reptilarium down.

This story has strong themes of family, World War II and the construction of gender and would therefore be most suitable for upper primary students over 10 years of age. I found the portrayal of Australia and the way the children lived in the early chapters reminiscent of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.

The language used throughout the book is very lively and colloquial with frequent use of mannerisms. The sentences are often short and sharp with the pronoun omitted to emphasise thought processes and maintain a fast pace. Excerpts could readily be used to model this style of writing. The author also makes great use of devices such as onomatopoeia and gives beautiful poetic descriptions such as "ghost gums like shinbones" which are used to great effect (p36).

Teachers notes and ideas for classes are available from Random House.